Women's Health

Why Women Should Also Be Concerned About Sleep Apnea

Why Women Should Also Be Concerned About Sleep Apnea

People usually associate sleep apnea with older men. But, women can also struggle with this sleep disorder. Because men are the most common victims of sleep apnea, the disorder is usually disregarded in women.

Based on the National Sleep Foundation, the ratio of men and women with obstructive sleep apnea is actually 8:1. This ratio shows that women must take this disorder into account when experiencing symptoms, and that doctors and specialists should keep in mind that it is possible for women to have sleep apnea as well.

Women tend to experience different signs and symptoms of sleep apnea as compared to men. If drowsiness, snoring, and gasping are found to be the common symptoms in men, these symptoms are said to be undetectable in women. An article posted on Psychology Today indicated that there is approximately 17 percent of women who have obstructive sleep apnea symptoms and 90 percent of these women are undiagnosed. One of the reasons behind this is that women who suffer from sleep apnea do not display the typical symptoms.

A study conducted by the University of Chicago indicated that it is possible for a woman to have sleep apnea, even if there is no loud snoring. It is also noted that sleep apnea in women is often mistaken for depression, hypertension, hypochondria, or other disorders.

Some of the symptoms that may be observed in women are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, morning headaches, fibromyalgia, memory difficulties, frequent urination at night, heartburn, dry mouth, and obesity.

Because of this, the Women and Sleep Apnea Toolkit was released on November 29, 2017 by the Society for Women’s Health Research, or SWHR, Interdisciplinary Network on Sleep. This resource is a product of the collaboration of 12 researchers and clinicians that come from different sleep-related fields, which includes physiology, neurology, pain, psychiatry, epidemiology, obstetrics/gynecology, pulmonology, and sleep medicine. This was also strengthened by the participation of real women with sleep apnea who were recruited through an online community called myapnea.org.

The Toolkit comes with pages asking women to observe themselves if they have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, both daytime and nighttime. For daytime, symptoms like depression, anxiety, irritability, impatience, or fatigue should be observed. As for nighttime, symptoms like difficulty in sleeping, frequent awakening, and restless sleep are noted.

The Toolkit also urges healthcare providers to observe their female patients carefully. They are also reminded that women have different sleep apnea symptoms as compared to men. At the same time, the Toolkit also asks them to observe women who have other common disorders associated with OSA, such as diabetes, insomnia, high blood pressure, stroke, anxiety, depression, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, polycystic ovary disease, and mild cognitive impairment.

If their sleep apnea is treated, it may help improve their other conditions, like diabetes and/or cardiovascular diseases.